Social media workshops & talks

Quick update on workshops and talks I have coming up over the next few weeks.

If I can help you with any training or talks, please do get in touch


5 lessons to learn from a social media master

Four years ago at SXSW I encountered Gary Vaynerchuk for the first time.  With a group of typically cynical Brits, we went along to watch him talk.  I’d vaguely heard of him before but had never seen him speak.  Someone said to me, “you’ve never seen him?” and then followed comments like, “ah, he’s something else”, “just wait and see” and “he has a cult like following, especially in the US, his fans ADORE him”.  And so it was that I was initiated into the world of ‘GaryVee’.  Onto the stage bounded a man with the energy of an irrepressible toddler, it was like sitting downstream of a jet engine.  The cynical Brits smiled politely while the Americans in the audience whooped and cheered throughout.  Then something happened to us.  It was impossible not to warm to this guy, his enthusiasm for business and technology and social media was genuinely infectious (even to a bunch of miserable English folk) and by the end we were hooked too.

Gary Vaynerchuck is best known for how he effectively used social media to grow his family’s retail wine business from a small outfit to a hugely sucessful company.  And what started off as short YouTube videos filmed with a flip camera, turned into the enourmously popular Wine Library TV.  Now he also has a large consultancy business and has written several books.  Yesterday he did a 5 hour live streaming session as part of promotion for his latest book (called, in typical understated Gary V style ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook‘.). Fans (and he has many) could come on and ask him anything one-to-one.  This epic session reminded me how intuitively good he is at social media and how much he can teach businesses large and small about how to use social media effectively.

So here are here are my 5 lessons to learn from Gary V about mastering social media:

  1. YOU DON’T NEED A MASSIVE BUDGET: the videos of Gary talking about and tasting wine where recorded by himself using a flip camera, they’re fun, informative and very much his own style. Good social content doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
  2. SHOW THE HUMAN SIDE OF YOUR BUSINESS: Gary’s style is very individual, some people find it over the top but many people love it.  Regardless, no-one can say it’s not authentic.  It’s a cliche but people don’t want to talk to faceless corporations, they want to talk to people.
  3. ENGAGE!: Despite having nearly one million followers on twitter Gary responds to everyone who tweets him.  That’s some commitment but he knows it builds loyalty and relationships with his followers and that ultimately sells more books (and wine and social media consultancy services!)
  4. PASSION IS CONTAGIOUS: Whether you sell wine or widgets, people will respond if you demonstrate your passion for your product or service. That has to be genuine passion, not dreamt-up-by-a-marketing-agency-passion.
  5. IT TAKES HARD WORK, COMMITMENT & TIME TO BUILD A COMMUNITY: Coming across Gary Vaynerchuck at this point, it might look like a breeze, you may think well it’s ok for him, due to his investments he’s hooked into some of the most influential people on the planet when it comes to social media, he has a huge following, he has NY Times best-selling books under his belt. But all that didn’t come without tireless work and non of it happened overnight.  One of the most common issues I come across in my training and consultancy work is businesses not appreciating the resource it takes to get the momentum going.

If you’re in the early stages of using social media to build relationships with potential customers and wondering how to make it work better, check out some of Gary V’s videos or books and prepare to join the cult.

Social media reputation management: getting it right and getting it wrong


How to deal with negativity on social media platforms is one of the issues I’m asked about most frequently during training workshops.  Most organisations will at some time or another, have to face criticisms or complaints online.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of negative comments, the best way to respond is quickly, transparently and authentically.

But occasionally a bigger crisis occurs and last week there were two examples which neatly demonstrated the right and the wrong way to deal with a social media tsunami.

First up, Adecco who allegedly ripped off an idea from blogger Turner Barr, Around the World in 80 jobs and turned it into a strapline and campaign for their own ends.  There has been a huge amount of criticism on social media channels and Adecco’s main Facebook page is flooded with comments criticising them for seemingly stealing someone’s idea and passing it off as their own.  In response they posted a statement which is little more than an exercise in PR fluff, in it they say:

We have seen and heard your sincere concern about our recent youth employment initiative and take your feedback very seriously. We deeply regret if we hurt Turner Barr. This was never our intention when we set up our “Around the World in 80 Jobs” contest. We clearly see that Turner is an inspiration to many people. We feel there should be more of such initiatives that inspire people to live their dreams and achieve their ambitions. Unfortunately, we moved forward with a name and contest that clearly upset Turner and his community. We sincerely apologize for that mistake. 

When Turner contacted us about his concern, and we understood the full situation, we immediately engaged with him to try to make things right. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground so far.

So what’s wrong with their approach so far?  Well firstly, it’s patronising to its audience.  The statement has a faux sincerity that is grating to read, it also doesn’t really tell us that much.   And while I’d never suggest trying to respond to every comment, having posted the statement to Facebook, they haven’t (so far) been back to engage further.  Secondly, they appear to be completely ignoring the issue on other social channels.  A quick search for ‘adecco’ on twitter reveals a huge number of people tweeting in support of Turner Barr and criticising Adecco but the sum total of their response is one tweet last Friday linking to a statement on the matter.  In that tweet they use the phrase:

We’re sorry for some recent negative comments on our global youth employment initiative

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? They’re sorry that they got something wrong or they’re sorry to be receiving end of so many negative comments?

Now obviously they could be involved in legal proceedings which means they’re unable to get into more detail but whatever they’re doing, they need to do it fast.  Of course in all of this the biggest problem is that what you say when something like this blows up is actually only a tiny part of dealing with it effectively, it’s what you do that matters.  Social media simply holds a mirror up to your organisation and reveals it as it is.  Rather than try and paper over the cracks you have to fix the issue.

Which leads me to Kickstarter, who had a similar social media crisis last week but who dealt with it in a completely different manner.  They came under fire from many different individuals and organisations when a ‘dating tips’ manual received funding despite the fact that it was, at best, a how-to on sexual harassment and at worst, a manual to encourage rape.  Their response was quick, decisive and included real action.  The tone of their apology is authentic and free from corporate speak.  They have explained the background and the action they’ve taken (no publications of this type will be allowed on Kickstarter in the future and they donated $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organisation).    The huge number of positive comments on the blog post demonstrates how positively people have responded to Kickstarter’s approach.  Yes there are a few counter opinions in there but the vast majority of commentators are congratulatory.

The key difference between them and Adecco is that Kickstarter have taken action and then been very clear about what action they’ve taken. Whereas, so far, Adecco have hidden behind a statement that is not just disingenuous but as it stands, has only served to add fuel to the fire.

5 reasons you should go to Thinking Digital 2014


I’ve written about Thinking Digital before, on a couple of occasions.

If you’ve seen any of the tweets over the last couple of days (search #tdc13) it may have piqued your interest but is it for you?

If you say ‘Yes’ to these 5 questions then you have your answer:

  1. Do you want to feel again the excitement you felt as a child when you discovered something new?
  2. Do you want to know what our future looks like and how to make a better present?
  3. Do you want to hear from those who are right at the heart of making, disrupting, changing and shaping the world around us?
  4. Do you enjoy meeting people who are open, authentic, unique and inspiring?
  5. Do you believe there is value to looking at everything from a different perspective, at least once in a while?

Go, and this time next year I guarantee you’ll be telling people that Thinking Digital is one of the best events you’ve ever been too.

*Photo: The incredible Sugata Mitra at Thinking Digital 2013

Top 5 books for 2012


I’m not going to add to the plethora of ‘Predictions for 2013′ posts (FWIW I’d say: sexting apps, streaming video apps, more social local mobile), instead I’m going old school with a list of my favourite 5 books from 2012.  Yes actual printed books, not even Kindle versions. A caveat that they’re not necessarily books that came out in 2012, although 4 of them are, but books I read in 2012.

  1. We Learn Nothing by Tim Krieider.  Certainly one of the finest non-fiction writers alive today.  He gives new perspectives and insight into every day situations.  If you’ve never read any of his articles, start with The Busy Trap, one of the New York Times, most shared articles this year.  Perfect writing.
  2. The New Kings of Non-Fiction, edited by Ira Glass. If you like stories about life and people, you’ll love this collection of essays.  Similar to the kind of stories you’ll find on This American Life, or used to find on John Peel’s Home Truths.
  3. How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you, The Oatmeal. One of the most popular living cartoonists, he’s pretty much taken over the internet.  If he’s new to you, take a look at Making Things for the Web.  You’ll be hooked.
  4. Born to run by Christopher Mcdougall.  Whether you’re a runner or not you can’t help but be drawn into this incredible story about Mcdougall’s search for a better understanding about the impac of running on the body, the multi-billion dollar trainer industry and a tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world.
  5. The Intention Economy by Doc Searls. The only business book in the list, this is a fascinating view into the “customer driven economy” of the future.  When social media becomes social business but with the depth of insight that you’d expect from the co-author of the seminal Cluetrain Manifesto.

I’ve just started Nate Silver’s, The Signal and the Noise about how to use data and trend information to make accurate predications. It’s proving to be a fascinating read.  In a recent interview he mentioned that he may give up political forecasting and look at economics.  If he does, make no mistake, he’ll be one to listen to.  The man is a genius, well either that or a witch

What have been your favourite books of 2012?


My latest work projects

macbook pro

A brief update on the latest projects on which I’ve been working.

I continue to run lots of training workshops on social media and online pr, I’ve been doing this for four years now and have worked with all sorts of different organisations. Training is bespoke, either full day sessions (on all aspects of social media), platform specific, or more presentation style events.  Here are just a few of those I’ve worked with over the last six months: Econsultancy, Arts Marketing Association, Museums and Galleries Scotland, Mediacontact, University of Bristol Students’ Union, Cornerhouse Manchester (public sessions) plus many PR and digital agencies.

In October I was lucky enough to be asked to work on one of my favourite projects, the Creative Tourist Manchester Weekender, I was tasked with using social media to help promote the many events that were taking place and to measure the results of our online activity.  Over the weekend itself I was also on the ground, helping to document everything by taking photos and capturing audioboo interviews with participants and attendees.  You can see a Storify of the weekend here.  For anyone in the tourism business, you might be interested to know that Creative Tourist now has a consultancy arm, Creative Tourist Consults, which specialises in cultural tourism strategy and digital communications.

I continue to write the monthly social media ‘Web Pro’ page for the brilliant .net magazine and am hoping to report from sxsw for them again.  Other writing commissions have included a, soon to be launched, ebook for My Newsdesk, aimed at small businesses and SMEs, it’s for anyone new to PR and wanting to understand how you can use it to promote your business.

I’m also coming to the end of a significant piece of work developing a social media strategy for a large organisation, this involved conducting a thorough audit of their current activity, producing a detailed recommended strategy and providing follow up training for staff.

And finally, around 60% of my time is taken up working as a director of Pyjama Drama, a franchise business that provides drama & creative play classes for toddlers and children.  We have 27 franchises across the UK and are growing fast.

If you have a social media or writing project with which you need a hand, or a training need, please do get in touch.  You can view some testimonials on my LinkedIn page.

Facebook Promoted Posts for Profiles: WTF


In the tech world, Facebook comes in for quite a bit of stick, its business model as an ad supported platform is fundamentally flawed, its mobile strategy is essentially flawed and let’s not get into outrage over privacy issues and so on…

But the reality is that in the mainstream, non tech world, Facebook is still, by some considerable margin the king of social networks.  I’m sure I’m not unusual when I say that the vast majority of my non tech friends use Facebook as their only social network.  However, all that might be about to change.

In May Facebook announced promoted posts to pages (pay so that more of your userbase will see your updates) and as this rolled out to all pages they also tweaked Edgerank so that even less of your (page) updates will be seen by your Facebook community. Coincidence? But even that could be considered to be fair game, hey it’s a business, they have to make money, if you want to use it as a marketing channel for your own business you have to accept it won’t be free etc.

However, they’re now rolling out the promoted post options to people’s personal accounts.  So as an individual I can pay to have more of my friends/connections see one of my updates.  And this is where I believe Facebook may start to lose the very audience that is essentially loyal to Facebook and up until now haven’t been concerned with, or even aware of, most of the other contentious issues.

As the screenshot above shows, there is so much room for promoted posts on profiles to fail.  Aside from the risk of an insensitive ‘hey you want to promote that post about how depressed you are?’ situation, how will users feel when their feeds are cluttered up with paid for ‘look at ME type posts’.  It truly feels like a desperate attempt to bleed every last cent out of the platform.  There is another issue too, on Facebook’s sign up page it’s very clear with its message:

“It’s free and always will be.”

Clearly if some users are able to pay in order to obtain more prominence within the network then you can’t really claim it’s free.

For now it seems that promoted posts to profiles is only available for some people.  Facebook announced it a couple of weeks ago by saying that it’s ‘testing promoted posts for people in the US‘ but it’s definitely appearing as an option on UK profiles too (in response to a tweet I sent out earlier today, 10 UK based people with whom I’m connected had been randomly offered the opportunity to promote a post).

Perhaps they are genuinely only testing it and will withdraw it but if not, this could be the point in history that Facebook starts to lose appeal to its core user base.  And that’s the point from which is is very difficult to return.

The DO Lectures

There are so many conferences and events these days you could make a full time job out of doing the rounds.  Whether industry specific or themed on a topic, each one claims to be able to offer you insight, information and leading speakers…

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t go to many events, probably 3 or 4 during a year.  I also very rarely go to anything relating to the sector in which I work; PR, social media, digital comms.  Why? Because I can get all the latest industry news from my favourite blogs, because they are, more often than not, merely an echo chamber of the same conversations on loop and, most importantly, because when I give up time to listen to people speak, I want to learn something completely new or be given a different perspective on the world. And sometimes I want to hear about stuff that really matters.

Which brings me to the Do Lectures. I’d been watching this event from afar for years; I was fascinated by the range and quality of the speakers and intrigued by the setting (I’ve stayed at fforest a few times on holiday, it is a one of my favourite places in the world but I couldn’t see how it would work as a venue for an event).

And so, after years with my nose pressed up against the window, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend this year’s Spring event.  I recorded my initial thoughts on Audioboo immediately after the event but I’ve subsequently been asked the same questions about Do several times and  as DO put on different events: one day workshops and the 36 hour start-up programme, now seems as good a time as any to set down my answers:

“Tickets are expensive, is it really worth the cost?”

As mentioned I was fortunate to be invited as a guest BUT my in answer to the question,  I would not hesitate in saying that the ticket price is absolutely commensurate with the value of the event.  It’s three full days of astoundingly good speakers and workshops, topped and tailed with half days either side of a welcome and good-bye, plus night time entertainment that is equally mind blowing.  And I can’t think of any other event where the food is so incredible (cooked on site at fforest).

“Isn’t it weird sharing a tent with someone that you don’t know?”

There are no soulless corporate hotels at Do. Yes you’re camping and yes you will probably be sharing with a person you’ve never met. It may sound daunting to some but honestly, it’s another part of what makes Do special. It isn’t very often that you’re chatting to someone you’ve just met and then you both realise that they’re the person you slept next to the previous night. Yep, that happened to me.  The unique environment of Do is an essential part of why it gets underneath your skin so comprehensively.  You’re immersed in every aspect of it.

“What do the speakers talk about?”

This is more difficult to answer because the specific topics are so broad and wide ranging.  Whether it’s the challenge of creating the Eden Project, hours spent hand crafting incredible kitchen knives in Brooklyn, escaping the world of advertising to write fantasy novels or bringing together a local community to take on the might of big industry, the speakers all have one thing in common: they get on and make stuff happen.  It’s exciting and inspiring and it takes your breath away.

An unoriginal but good comparison, is to say it’s like TED but in a field.

So is Do for you? That depends on your motivation for attending events. Do you love PowerPoint, bullet points and case studies? Then the answer is no.  Do you want to be challenged, feel exhilarated and leave with a head stuffed with questions and ideas? Then the answer is yes.

It will be interesting to see what else will come out of Do and whether they will stick with the existing format of a four day conference, David has said in a recent post that:

“The long-term plan for The Do Lectures is to start a school for entrepreneurs. A school where you go to start your start-up. On a farm that grows companies instead of food. An ideas farm. An accelerator of great business ideas.”

Whatever happens, you can be sure it’ll be interesting.  In the meantime I’d highly recommend you take some time to watch some of the videoed talks.

You may also want to listen this interview with David Hieatt on the Guardian or this comprehensive round-up of the 2011 Do from @Documentally.

A big thanks to @davidhieatt, @175viatribunali, @greenape, @richard_king

App review: Lift and the quantified self

Life hacking, self tracking, the quantified self; call it want you want, using technology to help track and improve your health and wellbeing is one of the fastest growing areas in digital.  Many respected bloggers are starting up blogs to cover this subject, like Stephen Davies’ and Drew Benvie’s bodydata.

One of the most highly anticipated launches in this area was for, mainly because two of its backers are twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone.  They have a lofty stated aim to “push the envelope of human potential through positive reinforcement”.

I’ve been using the beta app for a few weeks now and wanted to share my initial thoughts.  Firstly, it’s a great concept, and the app itself is, as you’d expect from a team this experienced, simple and intuitive to use.  You essentially decide on which ‘habits’ you want to track, like sleeping for 8 hours, doing more exercise or eating healthier (you can add your own, more random ones, if you like) and then every time you complete a habit, you check-in.  Over time you can see how you’ve performed with each habit.  You can see when other users check-in to a habit and you can give people ‘props’ for completing a habit.  There are a few other features, like the fact that you can add a commentary when you check-in but that’s essentially it.

The biggest question mark I have with the app in its current format (and obviously it’s only beta) is that there’s not much motivation to encourage you to keep using it. I open it, check-in, close it.  Not sure what their longer term plans are but for me there needs to be more of a connection between what you’re doing and what others are doing. You don’t have a community of friends/followers as with other networks and so it’s hard to build up a sense of relationships with other users.  Without this the app is a little bit, well, dull.

Hopefully the next version will address this.  There’s definitely something in lift but it needs more to motivate me to keep using it beyond it being a simple record of healthy/positive things I’ve done. changing the face of social networks (possibly…)


In just 6 short years twitter has established itself in our lives.  Hashtags on most TV programmes, the @ sign has become ubiquitous and every day celebrities help to extend it’s mainstream audience a little further.

It’s here to stay right?  Well lately there have been rumblings that twitter is losing its way, the increasing restrictions on developers using the API, the disgraceful way in which it sucked up to a major advertiser, deleting a journalist’s account for daring to criticise NBCs coverage of the Olympics, it’s all looking a bit murky.

The problem of course with an ad supported network is that, as we all know, if you’re not paying, you’re the product; a commodity to be bought and sold.  This is something we have always accepted but perhaps in the future we will look back in surprise at our compliance (if you’ve not read it, highly recommend Michael Wolff’s excellent piece on the essential problem with the ad supported model).

Just because it’s the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

The founders of are daring to do something bold.  In their words they’re building, “a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers”.  Asking users to commit to paying $50 per year for an account, they’ve raised nearly $300,000 of a $500,000 goal but with 5 days to go until their deadline to raise funding it’s looking questionable whether they’ll get there.

And it’s not just the relationship with the users, will offer much more flexibility (and therefore innovation?) for developers.

I really hope they reach their target.  It’s so easy to plug ourselves into these platforms with no real consideration of the Faustian pact into which we’re entering.  Go and let’s find a better way.

*UPDATE: There’s a great piece about just gone up on TNW, which includes a Q&A with founder Dalton Caaldwell

*UPDATE: With 19 hours to go, App.Net have exceeded their target (currently at $600,00), so now it gets interesting.  I also wanted to link to this post by Orian Max, since it explains very well, all the various benefits of a App.Net.